In two studies, the authors examined whether apparent motion of a face (either toward or away from an observer) influences the recognition of facial displays of anger and fear. Based on theories regarding the signal value of specific threat displays (i.e., shared signal hypothesis), the authors predicted that anger (an approach-oriented threat display) would be more readily recognized in faces that appear to be approaching the observer, whereas fear (an avoidance-oriented threat display) would be more readily recognized in faces that appear to be withdrawing. Consistent with these predictions, the authors found that angry faces were recognized more accurately when approaching versus withdrawing, and vice versa for fearful faces. This occurred not only for faces that were made to appear moving by changing the size of the stimulus (Study 1), but also for faces that were presented after a visual illusion that gave the perception that the faces were approaching or withdrawing (Study 2). These findings suggest that the ability to recognize threat from facial expressions is influenced by apparent motion in an ecologically relevant manner, matching the underlying action tendency (fight/flight) associated with each emotion.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Social Psychology
- Developmental and Educational Psychology